Written by: Anna Sibal
Long drives are stressful to the body. Especially if you are a snowbird migrating south for the winter you can easily spend days driving long distances in your RV. Without stopping occasionally to stretch your legs, you are likely to experience pain and stiffness on your neck, shoulders and back at the end of a long haul day. You may also feel some strain in your eyes accompanied by a headache. More often than not you will also see some swelling on your calves and ankles.
If you make a habit of driving long distances without pulling over for short rests from driving, the strain can affect your health in the long run. You can prevent this from happening by taking frequent breaks and by exercising during those breaks. Here are eight simple exercises that you can do when you pull over at any gas station, rest stop or for a meal break.
Exercise 1: Ankle Rolls
Ankle rolls are great for restoring proper blood circulation in the feet, ankles and legs. This exercise helps redistribute whatever blood and fluids that may have accumulated in your ankles and legs while you are sitting in your RV.
Step 1: With one hand, hold on to something so you can keep your balance and you won't topple over. It can be a door handle on your RV, railings or a nearby post. Put your other hand on your waist.
Step 2: Lift your right leg and bend it slightly at the knee so your foot is a few inches off the ground.
Step 3: Rotate your foot at the ankle slowly in a clockwise direction. Make eight complete rotations and then roll your ankle for eight more counts, this time in a counterclockwise direction.
Step 4: Put your right foot down and repeat steps 2 and 3 with your left foot.
Exercise 2: Leg Stretches
During long drives, it is common for you to experience stiffness and some contraction on your legs and thighs. These leg stretches will help relieve them as well as restore circulation to your legs.
Step 1: Place your right foot on the side of your RV or on the bumper of your vehicle. Make sure that your heel and toes are flat against the surface and your leg as straight as you can make it.
Step 2: Bend forward and touch your toes with your fingertips, or at least try to. Extend your arm as far as you can until you feel the stretch at the back of your knee. Once you feel the stretch, hold it and count till eight.
Step 3: Put your right foot down and repeat steps 1 and 2 with your left foot
Exercise 3: Calf Stretches
Calf stretches are not only good for restoring blood circulation in the feet but are also great for preventing heel spurs. If you already have heel spurs, then these exercises will help you a lot in relieving the pain.
Step 1: Place the toes of your right foot on your tire.
Step 2: Lean forward and push against your foot until you feel the stretch behind your toes and on the arch of your foot. Hold this position for eight counts.
Step 3: Put your right foot down and repeat steps 1 and 2 with your left foot.
Exercise 4: Waist Twists
There are four benefits that you can get from waist twists. First, the flailing will wake you up and make you more alert for the drive ahead. Second, your arms will get a good stretch after holding the steering wheel for so long. Third, the twists will help realign the vertebrae on your lower back as well as soothe the stiffness of the muscles in that area. Fourth, it will help energize the internal organs in your abdominal cavity so you can digest your food properly.
Step 1: Find a spot where you have a good space around you and where you are not likely to hit something or someone.
Step 2: Stand with your arms relaxed at your sides and your knees slightly bent.
Step 3: Twist from your waist to the right and let your arms swing loosely about you. Then twist to the left with your arms still swinging.
Step 4: Repeat the twists for 16 counts, eight to the right and eight to the left.
Exercise 5: Back Arches
Back arches can do three things for you. It can relieve the back pain that naturally results from sitting on the driver's seat for hours. It can also improve your flexibility. Lastly, it will help tone your abdominal muscles.
Step 1: Stand two or three feet away from the side of your RV with your back towards it.
Step 2: Lift your arms above your head.
Step 3: Bend backward and try to reach the side of your RV with your hands until you feel the stretch on your back and shoulders. Hold your position for eight counts.
Exercise 6: Shoulder Rolls
Shoulder rolls relieve the stiffness on the shoulders. It also helps soothe pain on the neck and upper back.
Step 1: Stand with your back straight and your head held high.
Step 2: Roll your shoulders backward for eight counts.
Step 3: Roll your shoulders forward for eight counts.
Exercise 7: Neck Rolls
Rolling the neck not only eases the stiffness of the neck and shoulder muscles but also allows blood to circulate back to your head.
Step 1: Relax your neck and let your head fall forward. Imagine your head as a ball moving on its own momentum.
Step 2: Let your head roll in a clockwise direction. Make sure you are moving your head slowly and gently so you won't feel dizzy or strain a muscle on your neck. Make four complete rotations.
Step 3: Repeat step 2 in a counterclockwise direction.
Exercise 8: Eye Rolls
Keeping your eyes on the road for hours can strain the eyes and affect your vision. By exercising the eyes, you get rid of the pain of eyestrain as well as prevent serious vision problems in the long run.
Step 1: Remove your eyeglasses if you're wearing them. Keep your head still and don't move it while doing this exercise.
Step 2: Look up and blink slowly for four times.
Step 3: Look to your right and blink again for four times.
Step 4: Look down and make four blinks.
Step 5: Look to your left and make another four blinks.
Step 6: Look up once more for another four blinks.
Step 7: Repeat step 5, then step 4, and then step 3.
Step 8: Close your eyes for ten counts.
Aside from these simple exercises, you can also bring with you small, portable exercise equipment like dumbbells and exercise balls so you won't miss out on your workouts while you are on the road. You can also buy stress relief toys such as stress balls to help relieve the stiffness of the hands and arms after driving long distances.
Driving long distances in your RV without taking any breaks can cause stress and strain to the body. Especially for RV snowbirds, doing this habitually will affect your health. But by taking short breaks from driving and doing a few simple exercises during these breaks, you will minimize the beating your body gets from these long drives. These exercises will also improve your health in the long run.
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